Best Football Defenders of All Time: The Stats Behind it

best football defenders of all time

Last Updated on October 8, 2021

Football has been blessed with so many great defenders in history and there are different yardsticks of identifying the greatest of them all, or maybe the best defenders of all time.

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Some sections of football fans see the Brazilian Tiago Silva as the best in the modern era because of his consistent top-level performance over the years. Others consider Roberto Carlos as the GOAT of defenders because of his long-range free-kick skill and overall contribution to attack. Paolo Maldini and Fabio Cannavaro, on the other hand, are revered in Italy for their outstanding career achievements.

Who are the Best three Football Defenders?

But who really are the top 3 Football defenders of all-time? Though there are numerous standards, going by the total numbers of team accolades won, Dani Alves, Maxwell, and Gerard Piqué are the top 3 defenders or the GOATs (Greatest of All-Time).

Let us examine them one after another;

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Top 3 Football Defenders By Numbers of Trohies Won

Dani Alves – 40 Trophies (according to transfermarkt)

The Brazilian Right-Back, who currently plies his trade in his homeland, Sao Paulo, has amassed 40 major trophies in his career to date – including the 2020 Olympics Gold medal. No defender, in fact, no Footballer in history has more team accolades than him.

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Alves won 23 major trophies in Barcelona including 3 Champions League honors. His trophy haul in Paris Saint-Germain is the closest with 6, next to Sevilla 5. Though the Brazilian played just one season in Juventus, he managed to win the Italian Serie A and the Italian Cup medals.

Dani Alves’ success with the Brazilian national team cannot be overstated having won 2 confederations cups (2009 & 2013), the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2003, and 1 Olympics Gold medal (2021).

Apart from the trophies, he has won, Alves’ ability to consistently play top-level Football since his move to Europe is nothing short of astonishing. 

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Maxwell – 37 Trophies (according to transfermarkt)

It may be a bit surprising to see Maxwell, the retired left-back, in the list of top 3 Football Defenders of All-time because he may be perceived to never really hit the limelight as a World-Class player. In truth, he has contributed reasonably to the successes of the teams he represented.

Maxwell, who retired in 2017, won 15 major honors with Paris Saint-Germain including 4 French Leagues. However, the Brazilian secured 11 trophies in Barcelona including one Champions League medal. In his time with Ajax and Inter Milan, he claimed 6 and 4 trophies respectively in addition to the Brazilian Cup with Cruzeiro Esporte Clube back in the year 2000.

Maxwell truly deserves to be on the list because it is really not easy to win these numbers of trophies in modern football that are incredibly competitive.

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Gerrad Pique – 36 Trophies (according to transfermarkt)

The former Manchester United defender is the next on the list with 36 major trophies. Having spent most of his career in Barcelona, Pique earned himself 29 major trophies including six (6) Spanish Championships. He is a 4-time winner of the Champions League, 3 in Barcelona, 1 in Manchester United. Also, during his Manchester United career, he won the Premier League, League Cup, and Community Shield Cup.

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Unlike other players on this list, Pique has had an outstanding career with his National team. He won the World Cup in 2010 (arguably his greatest achievement as a Footballer) and the Euro 2012. Let’s not forget that Pique also won the U-19 European Championship with Spain in 2006.

It’s almost impossible to deny Pique’s immense quality as a defender. So, being touted as one of the greatest defenders of all time is not an overstatement.

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Cumulative Statistical Inference of Top 3 Football Defenders’ Trophies by Team

So, having analyzed the top 3 Football defenders of all time by the numbers of earned trophies, now we will see a holistic overview of their cumulative efforts by the team.

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As the above chart indicates, Barcelona has a whopping cumulative score of 63 trophies, the highest by far on the list. In other words, the top 3 Football defenders of all time won most of their trophies with Barcelona.

TeamSum of Trophy
Paris Saint-Germain21
Ajax 6
Manchester United4
Inter Milan4
Spain National Team3
Brazil National Team3
Cruzeiro Esporte Clube1

Paris Saint-Germain is next to Barcelona but they did not even come close. The French giants have a cumulative trophy score of 21 if all honors of the Top 3 Football defenders are combined by the team.

The Spanish and Brazil national team are on par with 3 apiece.

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Top 3 Football Defenders By Value of Trohies Won

If the trophies won by the top 3 football defenders were weighted based on their value or importance in modern football, there could be another twist to the order of the list. The Charts below show how each Trophy is graded by Soofootball.

Soofootball criteria for grading trophy value for the top 3 football defenders
Soofootball criteria for grading trophy value for the top 3 football defenders

The cumulative score after grading is shown below;

The cumulative score for top 3 Football Defenders by number and value

Though it’s a very close tie between Dani Alves (113) and Gerard Pique (112.3), we can infer from this study that Dani Alves is the greatest Defender of all time by the Value of trophies won as computed by soofootball.

NameTotal Cumulative Score
Dani Alves113
Gerard Pique112.3

The charts below show the breakdown of how each player’s cumulative grade is calculated;

Dani Alves, one of the top 3 Football defenders cumulative score calculation
Pique's overall score trophies won
Maxwell is one of the top 3 Football Defenders of alltime

The major contributing factors to the slight change are the World Cup and UEFA Champions League. Pique won more Champions Leagues (4) than any other player on the list. Plus, he won the World Cup in 2010.

Soofootball’s weighted score for the World cup is 10 (the highest score on the list), and the UEFA Champions League 5 because the World Cup is the pinnacle of success of any football player. It is rated double of the Champions League here because it takes place just once in 4 years, unlike the Champions League. Furthermore, the odds of winning the World Cup are much lower than the Champions League. 

Pique and Alves have won the Champions League 4 and 3 times, respectively. Unlike Alves and Pique, Maxwell won the competition just once in his career before he retired. Hence, his moving down the ladder on the list.

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In a nutshell, it is safe to say that Dani Alves is the greatest Football Defender of all time by number, and the value of trophies won. Also, Barcelona can feel so proud of themselves because the top 3 Football defenders of all time won most of their trophies with them.

Football fans across the world should give maximum respect to Dani Alves, Pique, and Maxwell. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on this computation and analysis? Is there something missing? It’ll great to hear from you.

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2 thoughts on “Best Football Defenders of All Time: The Stats Behind it

  1. Dani Alves is not even the best Brazilian right back of all time.

    1. “Best” is very subjective, relative and sometimes vague especially when there are no yardsticks. Or when the yardstick is based on what you think (which could differ from another man’s thought).

      In what terms is Alves not “not even the best Brazilian right-back of all time”? Who then is?

      However, in our article, the yardstick is clear- Trophies won, and by this metric Dani Alves is the BEST without any iota of doubt. Numbers NEVER lie.

      It’ll be interesting if you can bring a valid case with justification…😉

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